Brewing a tiny IPA in 7 days


I was excited about the Super Bowl and invited some people over to watch it. I also decided that I wanted to make a beer specifically for the Super Bowl. The only problem was that I thought the game was later on in the month of February and I had plenty of time to brew a beer. I only had seven days (from brew day) to turn around a beer.

I’ve turned around beers in short time frames for competitions, parties, even just for the challenge. The challenge with this beer was that I (for once) had a beer in mind that I really wanted to replicate. I’ve been drinking a lot of Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback IPA since I moved down to North Carolina. I’m sure many people are familiar with Oskar Blues, which started as a brewpub in Colorado. They later opened production facilities in Austin, TX and Brevard, NC. They maintain a strong “local” presence here in the North Carolina market, at least from what I’ve seen at beer retailers.

The tricky part here, as I mentioned before, was time. Pinner clocks in at 4.9% ABV, and while that’s relatively low on the ABV scale, I felt using enough fermentable wort to get to 4.9% would take too long to ferment, clean up, and clear in one week. So I bumped it down and shot for 4.0%, similar to the English bitter styles I have turned around in short time frames. Another tricky aspect was that I found very little information in regards to recipe formulation for this beer. There were a few threads on some homebrew forums about people attempting clones but not much follow-up. I did come across an article that mentioned Pinner is possibly “dry-hopped with Mosaic, Citra, El Dorado and Azacca hops, for aroma and flavor”. El Dorado was the only hop I didn’t have, so I swapped it for EXP 1210. I don’t have much experience with El Dorado, but EXP 1210 seemed to fit well with the line up of hops for this beer.

Malt bill was another mystery, but I had to think (and brew) fast. Pinner doesn’t seem to possess any unique malt characteristics other than being slightly toasty. I remember being intrigued by Tasty’s Session Pale Ale, a very low ABV hoppy pale ale recipe I have seen online. He uses several base and crystal malts to layer flavors and create depth, which is needed in such low alcohol beers like this that can come across as thin or watery. I ended up only blending two base malts instead of three because it saved me a trip to the homebrew store.I’ve also read several corroborating reports about the importance of hops in relation to mouthfeel in session beers but with limited experience making hoppy session beers, I’d have to trust these hops to do the job.

I went with a high mash temp (more residual sugars for better mouthfeel), a larger-than-normal dose of fast fermenting and highly flocculating yeast (Safale S-04 FTW!), finings to clear the beer in the keg as quickly as possible, and a quick carbonation schedule (24 hours of 45 PSI of CO2 at near freezing temps). Also, there wasn’t enough time to do a proper dry-hop regimine, so I added the dry-hops 24 hours after pitching yeast, during high krausen.

I split this ten gallon batch between two fermentors so I could pitch Wyeast 1318, but allowed that portion to cold crash and carb longer because I wouldn’t need 10 gallons of beer for the Super Bowl. Tasting notes from that will be posted soon.


S-04 MiniPin, Pinner, Pinner Can.

S-04 MiniPin (Pinner Clone)

I will include comparisons with Pinner in this tasting assessment

Appearance.  Copper to orange in the MiniPin that is very clear thanks to the finings, even after 7 days. MiniPin is darker in color, my guess is there is no caramel 40 malt (or higher) in Pinner. Probably a large dose of carapils used in Pinner. Pinner is slightly hazy.

Aroma. Pinner is more dank smelling and has notes of fruit salad. There is some dankness/marijuana in the clone but to a lesser degree. Clone is sweeter smelling, maybe strawberry/blueberry with slight dank. Both smell delicious, but Pinner is much more intense and aromatic.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Very close on the mouthfeel. Both beers are somewhat thin, but not distractingly so. The clone would benefit from more body. Both are very refreshing. There is also diacetyl in the clone, but it doesn’t ruin the beer.

Overall Impressions. This is definitely not cloned, but it also wasn’t entirely intended to be. I shot for a much lower alcohol content in my beer (4% vs 4.9%) and didn’t actually compare SRM color estimations from Beertools with Pinner’s SRM which would have alerted me to the c40 issue. The mouthfeel discrepancy would be resolved with increasing the ABV and raising the mash temp one or two degrees. The abbreviated dry hopping also did not help the clone beer, as the aroma was weak early on and faded quickly after kegging. If there were more time, I would have dry hopped in two doses over 7 days and used El Dorado instead of EXP 1210. I also wouldn’t call it a “Tiny IPA” quite yet, at least until I can find a way to pack more hop aroma into this small beer in such a short time. This is a promising beer that was well received for the party, it just needs a few tweaks to make it great.

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The Other Saison Strains.

Saison duel

The most enjoyable aspect of homebrewing for me is the ability to split batches and compare two different ingredients or processes.  Specifically, I love doing a batch and splitting the wort into two fermentors and using different yeast strains.  I am constantly scouring the internet, trolling forums, and asking other homebrewers about new yeast, hops, and to a much lesser extent, malt.  I believe there are tons of other homebrewers out there just like me and the recent explosion of new yeast companies and new hop varieties has me scrambling to keep up with my side-by-side comparisons.  Here is a look into one I did a while back.

After doing a bit of research on “standard” ale strains, I wanted to do some digging for a house saison strain.  I dabbled a bit with wyeast 3711 and Belle Saison (which I believe to be of similar origins), and half-heartedly explored the Saison Dupont strain, but I wanted something more unique to set my beers apart from the crowd.  My recent move to Pennsylvania gave me access to Tired Hands Brewing Co. (THBC), which has opened up my eyes to the possibilities of new and unique hoppy and farmhouse style ales.  After a bit of digging, I got a hold of what I believe THBC is using to make their delicious farmhouse creations, East Coast Yeast ECY14.  Of course I needed another strain to do this split batch, so when The Yeast Bay started production recently, I scooped up their Wallonian Farmhouse strain, picked a simple saison recipe, and went to work.

ECY14 Saison Single Strain:

Appearance.  Hazy golden straw with a slightly more persistent head than its Wallonian sister.  I guess it’s rustic looking.

Aroma.  First thing I notice is the distinct farmhouse aroma, earthy and minerally, with some bright straw/hay bouncing around as well.  Some lemon peel, and a little bit of black pepper.  Initially there was a nice herbal and spicy presence from the Sterling hops that has since faded.  Now there is an very slight hint of sulfur and banana once the beer warms that isn’t too much of a distraction.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Medium body with a good carb (served on draft), silky smooth mouthfeel that coats the tongue and then the dry finish (1.004) smacks your gums .  Slight mineral bite with a lemon rind chaser.  Juicy and fruity come to mind as well.

Overall Impressions. Very nice strain that is nuanced, balanced, and sets a nice template for numerous farmhouse interpretations (barrel-aging, lacto souring, brett additions).  After several fanboy trips to THBC and one recent trip to Hill Famrstead, I think this is the clean Fantome strain they are using.  I recently brewed a Farmhands-inspired batch to test this theory that I will bring to the brewery.

The Yeast Bay Wallonia Farmhouse:

Appearance.  Same golden straw color but a bit clearer than the ECY.  Nice lacing left behind.

Aroma.  Very distinct farmhouse funk to this one, much more herbaceous but a similar stale hay aroma to the ECY (which means the aroma hops are playing a role but seem to be melding seamlessly with the strains).  Definitely get more earth, umami, mushroom from this strain in the nose.  I keep wanting to same “sharper” aroma but that’s hard to define.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Similar but slightly less coating mouthfeel than the ECY, not a bad thing.  Lemonheads, bitter orange peel, mineral, funk, earthy mushroom, and mustiness bouncing around.  Very distinctly saison, where as the ECY strain might be able to pull off some double duty in the wit, Belgian blonde, and even trappist styles.

Overall Impressions.  Very enjoyable, nuanced and refreshing saison perfect for year round consumption.  I was surprised by the yeast character similarities between the two beers, which leads me to think that all of these saison strains may have originated from one central point, maybe Dupont?

I came across a bottle of Blaugies La Moneuse while at the local Wegman’s and decided to give it a go while enjoying lunch with the family.  A lightbulb went off as the same distinct rustic mustiness washed over my tongue that the Yeast Bay Wallonian Farmhouse strain must be from Blaugies, rumored to also be Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse Ale.  Some quick google geography cross-referencing seemed to confirm my hypothesis.

Blaugies Bottle Service

A real man would culture up that yeast and be done with this “truth is out there” crap

This was once again a very enjoyable experiment that still has me scratching my head as to what my house strain will end up being.  I have brewed subsequent batches reusing the yeast cake from both of these beers so stay tuned for more saison related nonsense and nerdy ramblings.

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Grandma’s Closet Release.

Short notice, but the beer that I brewed at Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp back in December finally got approved for the NY market.  Come grab a pint with me during the Brooklyn Brewsers homebrew club meeting this Monday, July 7th 7:00pm at Brouwerij Lane in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  The beer is an IPA aged on Spanish Cedar and aptly named “Grandma’s Closet”.  Hope to see you there!

Ray Ray and Grandma


My boy Ray-Ray gettin’ down n’ dirty with grandma


EXP 7270 Single Hop Beer

Next up in the single hop series is another Hop Steiner EXP cultivar, creatively named 7270. Slightly different recipe than the last iteration with Azacca, but same hop flavor exploration.

Appearance: hazy, bright orange hue spot on for an American pale ale.

Aroma: ripe pear, and honeydew dominate then some mango, kiwi, papaya, sweet tropical fruit, peach and slight orange citrus. Very nice. Has a distinct “sweet” smell.

Taste and Mouthfeel: taste is slightly less nuanced, but very nice. Tropical fruit, a touch of berry and very little citrus.  A bit aggressive, but I think that may be from my exclusive use of hop extract for bittering all my recent batches. The extract lends a much smoother bitterness at the same IBU levels than pellet hops. Light, airy mouthfeel I’ve been getting from high carbonate+WY1318 combo is just juicy and scrumptious. Yeah, scrumptious.

Overall impression: I am very impressed with this hop. Although I feel the addition of a citrus-based hop like cascade (same with Azacca) would round out this pale ale, I have no problem drinking a few pints of this.

I think my whirlpool technique and careful attention to oxygen pickup post-fermentation has allowed these experiments to pull out the best flavors from these experimental hops. As it seems like there is no short supply of new varieties popping up, I’ll keep testing them out. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Continue reading

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The Great Yeast Search.

One of the first experiments I performed after setting up my new home brewery was to explore some new ale yeast strains.  The goal of this experiment is to establish my house strain for Haydts Brewing Co., the nanobrewery-in-planning I’ve been working on for the past few months.  I want to use a house strain that sets my brewery apart from the numerous other startups coming online.

There is the easy but not-setting-yourself-apart choice, the ubiquitous Cal Ale/WLP001/WY1056/US-05/Chico strain from Sierra Nevada that is used by a majority of breweries for American ales all around the country.  Relatively neutral, it allows the malt and hops to shine without getting in the way.  The Fuller’s strain (WLP002, WY1968), a more flavorful English strain, is also heavily utilized in American craft breweries (Lagunitas IPA, 3 Floyds, Deschutes) as well as the Whitbread Dry strain (WY1098, WLP007, S-04).  I’ve grown to love the Whitbread strain for its fast fermentation time, neutral flavor, extremely high flocculation powers, and its brew-at-the-last-minute availability in its shelf-stable dry form, Safale S-04.

Pale Ale Research Hophands, WY1318, and Vermont Ale trying to beat the near 100°F heat

So how do you find a great yeast strain that isn’t widely used?  Start by doing research on some of the highest rated American ales, and then go after those strains.  The Alchemist’s Conan strain (used in the world-class Heady Topper DIPA) is creating quite a buzz lately–which runs somewhat counter to my goals of setting Haydts Brewing Co. apart.  After running through a few test batches with the Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale (the Conan strain for those of you who are unfamiliar), the buzz is somewhat warranted, putting out distinct citrus/peach esters that meld well with American hop profiles. Hill Farmstead makes some of the most highly rated American ales (really all of their beers are world class), and the brewery attributes this to special well water, technical prowess, and yeast.  No one seems to know what hidden gem of a yeast they use, though there is of course plenty of speculation.  Reading some of those speculation threads online I came across this:

Screen Shot Boddingtons Yeast

The succinctness of the post took me unawares.  Is this a person with insider knowledge?  Who knows.  But it did get me to the homebrew store to buy up all the Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, rumoured to be the Boddingtons strain.  Another peculiar thing I read over at Ales of the Riverwards is that Tired Hands Brewing also uses the same yeast, as the brewer mentioned he gets the yeast “from a friend in Vermont” according to an interview with the brewer at Tired Hands.  Since at the moment I can’t get up to Vermont to try the Hill Farmstead beers, I went to Tired Hands (twice in fact, because it was incredible) and picked up their Hophands for comparison’s sake. I brewed a ten gallon batch using the hops listed for HIll Farmstead’s Edward, with a dose of flaked oats (a nod to Tired Hands generous use of adjuncts) and split two carboys: one with Conan (Yeast Bay Vermont Ale) and the other with Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.

I also switched up on water treatment.  During my research, I was also influenced by info gleamed during John Kimmich’s Q&A.  There is a part where he discusses water chemistry and recommends “350 ppm hardness for a pale ale”.  This can mean several things to a brewer and I can’t fully wrap my head around water chemistry quite yet, but luckily the Bru’n Water excel sheet I recently switched to made it easy with the “total hardness” column.  I plugged in salts affecting Calcium and Magnesium until I hit 350 ppm and went from there.  This is different from my usual minimal salt regime, but whatever, why not change everything all at once: new water source, new water treatment, new brew system, larger batch size, new ingredients, new hop schedule and of course new yeasts.

Surprisingly, both batches came out great.  Of course, a few nit-picky things that I will fine-tune, but that always happens.

1318 vs Conan

WY1318 left, Vermont ale on right.  Mason jars make terrible growlers, buckled both lids during transport.

The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale Pale Ale:

Appearance.  Brilliantly clear orange with a persistent head that leaves beautiful lacing on the glass.  Much clearer than 1318.

Aroma.  Peach, citrus, mango, tropical fruits, some dankness.  There is a sweet flavor that seems to differ from the 1318, it could be a peach flavor but I just seem to perceive “sweet”.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Very “American” is how I would describe this.  Great mouthfeel, oats seem to help with that, tastes very hoppy without being very bitter.  Flavors seem to bounce off the tongue, the words “light and airy” come to mind (although not as airy as 1318) which makes me think the elevated hardness has something to do with this character.  Similar in profile to the Chico strain ester-wise, with a little added oomph to the hop flavor and a sweet/peach/citrus note.  I probably should have also done a Chico strain as a control, but oh well.

Overall Impressions.  Very pleased with this beer.  Seems very traditional compared to the 1318, but in a good way.  This beer seems more popular with people who have tried both on tap, but I think that may be with the familiarity of the flavors.  I preferred the 1318 because of it’s “newness” and slightly more nuanced flavors, but I would gladly pay for a pint of this.

Wyeast 1318 London Ale III Pale Ale:

Appearance.  Standard copper/orange APA hue, although one of the unique things about this beer is that it never, ever cleared, as I’m reviewing notes and drinking what I believe is the last of the keg, there is still a haziness that I would guess isn’t yeast.  Chill haze possibly?  Or something to do with yeast/protein interaction?  Maybe my pH was too high going into the fermentor?  But then why would Conan clear and not this?  Still scratching my head.  BUT it looks like every Hill Farmstead beer I’ve seen (in pictures of course).

Aroma.  Peach, mango, citrus, and slight mineral in the background.  Very delicious and the aroma stuck around much longer (3+ weeks) due to a second CO2 tank I picked up for transfers.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Peach and grapefruit.  Low astringency and very little bitter aftertaste.  This is where the yeast strains seem to deviate significantly.  This strain is very balanced malt and hop bitterness, nothing seems to jump to the forefront, everything in its place.  There is too much minerality (because it stands out), most likely from the water salts.  Mouthfeel is incredible, light and airy (things I heard of Hill Farmstead beers).  My wife described this beer as “sunshine in a glass”.  Tastes like fruit juice, not beer, in an awesome way.

Overall Impressions.  This beer is very similar to the growler of Hophands.  Hophands is much lighter (probably no crystal malt used) but the yeast character is almost identical.  My favorite of the two batches, I finished this keg first.  Nothing against the Conan variant, this was just a breath of fresh air.  Not sure if I would bet money that this is the Hill Farmstead yeast, but I’m just going with my gut, a gut that will need taste confirmation in the form of a Vermont trip soon.

In the end, though, I’m still undecided on the new house strain, so expect more experiments to come.

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All American Pilsener Recipe.

One of my initial goals for opening a brewery was to use local and/or domestic products exclusively in the beers I offered.  The main issue with sticking to that mantra was my love for Australian Galaxy hops, trouble finding an equally delicious replacement for East Kent Goldings in my English bitters, and my most recent infatuation with noble hops.  This noble hop obsession is a long time coming for me, as I used to vehemently despise the delicate floral, spicy, herbal, and earthy qualities they’re known for.  I think it was the ignorance of an accelerating homebrewer caught in the relentless exploration of new flavors and aromas for hoppy American styles.  I never stopped to appreciate what made the classics so successful.  There is beauty in a German or Czech pils brewed with a few quality ingredients and attention to detail that is often lost on doe-eyed homebrewers like my (younger) self.  That’s why I decided to bastardize the elegance of a German pilsener and solely use American ingredients like a true brute.

Haydts Pils

Finally get to use this glass that is terribly hard to clean.

I approached this batch with German simplicity and principles of the Reinheitsgebot.  Briess Pilsen as a base and domestic carapils for a little body/mouthfeel boost.  I opted for the Hochkurz infusion mash after reading that it was the standard mashing procedure in modern German breweries. It employs two different saccharification temps to satisfy both beta and alpha amylase enzymes which may possibly lead to enhanced mouthfeel and prolonged foam stability.  Finding suitable American hops to replace the noble German stalwarts would be the key factor in replicating a true pilsener.  I picked Sterling for bittering (high alpha acid) followed by Liberty (later switched to Crystal only because I ran out), and US Tettnanger.  I think Mt. Hood could make an appearance in a later iteration of this recipe and fit in very well.

The final piece to the puzzle was choosing a yeast strain, which ultimately was my downfall in achieving my goal.  After pouring over yeast profiles, there wasn’t a good “American” lager strain that I thought would give me a true German pils profile.  I’ve had good luck using the Cal Lager 2112 strain in standard American lagers but it didn’t seem to fit this style. I have had very good luck with the dry Saflager strains and wanted to remove the yeast variable and focus on the grain, hops, and lagering techniques.

Appearance.  About as light-colored and pale yellow as you can get.  Brilliant clarity after extended aging,  Did not choose to filter this for hippy reasons.  

Aroma.  Spice, indistinct and general herbs, and faint whiff of minerals.  Some earthiness in there, almost like an ashy  and wooden note.  Slight dankness and some citrus quality to this, maybe a touch of lemon zest.  Very inviting and familiar.
Taste and Mouthfeel.  Served very cold from the tap, very crisp and lively.  Carbonation is high and maybe too much so for most people.  Mouthfeel is a little thin, but seemingly to style. First maltose mash rest could be bumped from 145F to 148F for more residual extract.  Bitterness is spot on and in line with German counterpart.  The minerality on the tongue is a high point and keeps me reaching for another sip.  As it warms I get notes of green tea/matcha poking through.  Malt backbone lacks the complexity of some floor-malted pils malt beers I’ve tasted, but whatever.  Can’t really complain when I’m using cheap domestic pilsner malt (or 2-row).

Overall Impressions.  Very pleased with this beer.  Seems to hit every style marker for the category, and I can’t think of what I’d change.  I served one batch of this at the NYCHG 25th Anniversary Party at Brooklyn Brewery and had people coming back to wait in line.  A former NYCHG friend John Moxey (now brewing at Perennial) gave my beer to Brooklyn’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver and he liked it so much he promptly went into the cellar and to pull a fermentor sample.  He brought me Halfling, a very low ABV (like 3.2% or something) German style pils they were working on.  I couldn’t really focus on tasting because I was so amped but I’m sure it was good.

One final thing for my fellow beer nerds to geek out on, I bought a few bottles of this along with me to Sierra Nevada Beer Camp and ended up getting it tested during a slow day in their QC lab.  Which is awesome.  Here are the results, which varied slightly from my calculated Beer Tools recipe below.

Haydts Pils Lab Results

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Assessing Water Sources

My family and I recently pulled our roots from the superfund soil known as Greenpoint, Brooklyn and moved to the middle-of-nowhere area of Northeast Pennsylvania.  This explains my most recent hiatus from blogging and brewing.  But between last month’s insanity of packing up, loading, travelling, unloading, and unpacking, you know this way-too-serious homebrewer found time to pull a sample from the well and send it off for analysis.

Water Comparison

Two eerily similar water profiles, two completely different places.  Both are very soft and essentially blank canvases for almost any beer style.  Looks like I won’t have to relearn to brew all over again, at least form a water point of view.  First brew day at the new spot is still a little ways off, though.  I’m currently upgrading to a 20 gal setup and building a brew stand. Got lots of ingredients, hops, and new yeasts to test out, so stay tuned.

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Azacca Single Hop Beer

This past weekend I participated in the second annual Homebrew Jamboree hosted by Josh Bernstein.  The event featured NYC’s best homebrewers serving their wares to a standing room only crowd inside Jimmy’s 43 in Manhattan.  I thought this would be a perfect chance to do a single hop beer (again) and get some tasting notes on one of the numerous experimental and newly released hops taking up room in the freezer (which are pissing off my wife).  I chose to brew with Azacca (ADHA 483) which has been generating quite a buzz recently.

Homebrew Jamboreephoto credit: Josh Bernstein

I asked everyone who came to my booth for a sample to give me a descriptor of what they smelled, tasted, imagined and I got some pretty good responses.  I definitely was surprised by the reactions from most people and even more surprised by the repeat “customers” I had throughout the event.  Both novice and experienced tasters contributed to a gnarly (in a good way) list of positive attributes:

Azacca Descriptorsscreen shot game is on point

I believe I can safely say that “tropical” would be a good catch-all descriptor for this hop.  Goin’ hard in the tropical arena, dropping a triple-double no assists (I had to google that reference for my wife).  Super juicy.  One of the most interesting things I noted about this hop was its distinct lack of citrus flavor (even though one taster mentioned it), a hallmark of several American hop profiles.  I got huge pineapple that reminded me of Simcoe (without the resin/dankness), peach, and some coconut (piña colada).  Victory recently paired Azacca with Mosaic in their Hop Ranch Imperial IPA, and I wish I had thought of it first (though I’ve yet to try it).  I found this hop so jaw-dropping that after tasting the hydrometer sample of this beer post-fermentation, I switched out some hops from my DIPA recipe I was brewing that day and popped in some Azacca.  Tasting notes from that batch coming soon.

hop cone“I think a hop looks like a tiny pineapple” -AEBS

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